Award-winning Canadian author Yann Martel is in town this week and speaking at the 23rd Vancouver International Writers and Readers Festival. Martel is best known for his novel Life Of Pi. His newest book, Beatrice and Virgil, is in stores now. Martel sat down with Metro Vancouver on Thursday afternoon to talk about his work.
What is it like to win the Man Booker Prize for Life Of Pi?
It was wonderful. You don’t write for money, you don’t write for prizes, you write to express yourself. Having done that, it was wonderful to be recognized, to meet readers and to win prizes. I’m as delighted to have won the Booker Prize as I was years earlier to have won the Journey Prize — a local Canadian prize.
How did winning the Man Booker Prize change your life, or the way you write?
What it’s done is made my life more complicated. (There are) more opportunities, more emails, more (chances) to go to festivals, to go to book launches. But that’s all external. On the inside (I’m) still the same person.
What brings you to Vancouver?
I was invited to (the writers festival) and it’s a pleasure to be here. It’s a lovely city, a stunning setting. It’s nice to interact with readers. It’s always a delight to visit Vancouver.
Why do you think festivals like this are valuable?
It’s nice to make the connection between art and artists. People love reading, but it’s also sometimes nice to meet the mind behind the book. I happen to enjoy it because I like travelling, it’s a pleasure meeting readers. It’s nice to engage with them. It’s nice to (step away from writing) and actually meet the people who pick up your books and read them.
What’s the best advice you could give to aspiring writers?
You have to read, you have to write, you have to re-write. I’d give the Buddhist advice of passionate detachment. You have to throw everything you have at (your writing) but you also have to be able to detach yourself, you have to be able to let go. If you want to write, write. It’s important to express yourself. There’s no shame in trying and failing, the pity would be to not try at all.